Svanstulrennet 2013 – 29 km

In February 2013, I spent another four weeks working in Norway. In Skien, just like the Summer before when I did my first MTB race and that neat 10k run on an island. Realising that I would be in the mecca of cross-country skiing, I brought my skating skis and planned on skiing a lot to prepare for Engadin Skimarathon in March.

Skien is a small place with about 60’000 residents, but the place sports about a dozen XC skiing tracks, two of which are even lit at night. Most tracks are for classic skiing only, but the biggest one (where I always went) had a skating track as well.

Even though I went often, I never managed to stay much longer than one hour. I usually went in the evening after work, and it was just too cold to stay any longer.

The same colleague that had taken me to the running race the Summer before told me about an event taking place on one of the weekends: Svanstulrennet, a XC skiing race near Skien. The catch was: classic technique only! My colleague lent me a pair of classic skis, I purchased grip wax (a science on its own) and decided to test the skis a few days before the race.

It was horrible. The skis were made for somebody much lighter than me, so they were almost completely on the ground when I was standing on them, leaving almost no room for grip wax. In addition, the track was completely frozen, so about one hour later, not much further and a few crashes “richer”, I was ready to abandon classic XC skiing forever.

My colleague convinced me to come along anyway, we would start in the “free” category ahead of the mass start, without timing. The day turned out to be absolutely beautiful with much better conditions than when I tried the skis, so it was actually a lot of fun. We started about half an hour before the actual race began.

The scenery presented itself like this:

image

No complaints!

Far away, we could see Gaustatoppen, the mountain to be climbed at the end of Norseman. Roughly like this.

After a bit more than one hour, the fastest racers started passing us. I felt much more comfortable on my skis than when I first tested them, but how these guys managed to run up climbs the way they did remained a mystery to me.

The course consisted of a small loop that was followed counterclockwise, then a large loop clockwise and then the rest of the small loop, with a little overlap between the both.

image

The fun lasted about two hours, until my wax wore off. There’s a reason why in longer classic races pros switch their skis! The last bit was a real struggle, with not so much grip and narrow bits where my poles seemed to disappear in the soft snow all the time. Lots of swearing and sweating later, we managed to finish, despite everything.

I had just one crash in a longer downhill section with a turn that seemed to become more and more narrow. My colleague zoomed along these as if on rails; me, not so much!

I haven’t tried classic XC skiing ever since, but I’m sure it’s great fun. And it’s very important to have skis suited to your body weight. And to become a waxing guru. Which all Norwegians seem to be!

Dietiker Neujahrslauf 2013 – 12.1 km

2013 was about to be a year of big racing, including the Boston Marathon in April, the one week Gigathlon in July and the Berlin Marathon in September. November and December saw more training than they did the two years before and the weather for this January weekend was awesome, so what better to do than start at the ZüriLaufCup opener in Dietikon, right?

A lot of friends from my running team TV Oerlikon started as well, so waiting never got boring. Before the main race, it was the children’s turn. Like this enthusiastic parent & kid team:

image

The slightly older kids ran without their parents. I’m not sure what happened after this scene, but something tells me it involved some tears:

image

The last start before mine was the race with all women and the men older than 50. Fastest of them all (by a lot) was Mona, seen here about one kilometre from the finish:

image

Side note: she ran a 2:36:50 marathon later that year in Hamburg. If she were Swiss, that would be a qualifying time for the European Champs!

Finally, it was time for our start. I had done this race twice before, in 2010 when it was ice cold and everything was covered in snow (it was also my first race since starting to run seriously) and in 2011, where I almost was faster than 4 min/km for the first time in a race longer than 10 km. The goal was of course to be faster than ever, and I had a little personal rivalry with a certain somebody who was also racing, so that was the other goal.

Unfortunately, that other goal went out the window after about one minute, as my rival disappeared to the front and I couldn’t really follow. But at least the scenery was nice:

image

The course consists of two loops with a hefty hill in each. I lost quite some places every time we went up that hill, but other than that I felt okay. Apart from never catching rival number one, that is.

This is shortly before the finish:

image

I do have the original without a watermark somewhere, I just don’t really know where.

I finished the 12.1 km course in 46:38.6, bettering my previous PB by almost two minutes. So that was good. I lost a full minute on my rival, so that was bad. My scoring for the overall series (which I wasn’t targeting that year) was a bit lower than the races before, but a single race score doesn’t say much as it’s based on the winner’s time alone.

The race was an alright start to the big year, could have been better, could have been worse. And I won something in the raffle, yay! Yay shower products for women! Well, they were a great gift afterwards. Up next in the racing season: Engadin Skimarathon, two months later!

Berlin inline skating half marathon: where the fastest finish in 30 minutes

Hegemer Chlauslauf 2012 – 8.8 km

Just like in 2010 and 2011, I ended my running season with a “hyperlocal” race, the Chlauslauf in Hegi, the part of Winterthur where I grew up. It’s so local that the course passes right next to my parents’ house and everything is within walking distance from there.

In 2010, it was cold and snow was everywhere; in 2011, I took a wrong turn and wasted valuable seconds. This was the year to make it all right and maybe podium! After placing 7th and 5th, it would only be natural. But very dependent on who would show up, of course.

This race is special in that there is no mass start: you can just run whenever you want, and you’re timed with a little stick you carry with you. This is nice as it’s very unlikely you’re held back by running masses, but on the other hand you’re on your own without anybody to chase or run away from.

Long story short: I was running a little slower than in 2011, but didn’t get lost, providing me with a marginally faster finishing time. This is a comparison of what I did in 2011 and 2012: 

image

Despite losing 6 seconds per kilometre, I was 32 seconds faster due to not doing the extra 360 metres I did in 2011. Why have running legs when you can be smart instead, right? Well, apparently “smart” doesn’t get you a podium as I missed out again. I placed sixth with a gap of 56 seconds to fifth place and 3:17 min from the podium. Not even close, thus! The winner posted an impressive 30:16 (3:26 min/km, which I can hold for about one kilometre).

My dad was on the course again, taking pictures just before the mean flight of stairs at the end:

image

image

image

No pictures of running up the stairs – because he filmed it (see next post).

And that was my 2012 season, stay tuned for 2013! Before long, I’ll break the “just one year behind” barrier. Good thing I’m not racing, my backlog keeps shrinking!

This means I can finally post the summary page of all my 2012 races, see sidebar from now on.

Running up the stairs just before the finish of the Hegemer Chlauslauf in 2012, using the tried and tested “two steps at a time” thigh killing technique.

Marathon Eindhoven 2012 – Half marathon

To finish off a triathlon heavy year with no running races longer than 19 km, doing a half marathon abroad seemed to be a great idea. I admit, Eindhoven wouldn’t have been on my radar (despite my love for the Netherlands), but an Austrian friend working for a Dutch company participated in the corporate run (“Bedrijvenloop”) and asked if I wanted to come along. Sure!

During my exchange year in 2006 in the Netherlands, I’ve never been to Eindhoven. I always say that Dutch cities are almost interchangeable: narrow cobble stone streets, canals, houses made of small bricks and tons of bicycles. Eindhoven is no exception, but like the other brick-and-bike cities, very likeable.

The Saturday was spent at the expo getting our numbers, or in my case, signing up for the race. I had asked explicitly beforehand if there would still be places available – who wants to travel that far to end up not racing – and they were. With a tiny little catch: signing up on race weekend meant starting in the last wave, no self-seeding according to expected time. Bummer.

Race weekend encompasses a marathon (two laps of the same course we did), a marathon relay race, a half marathon, a 5 km City Run and a 2.5 km Mini Marathon. In short: it was very busy! Most of it took place in the morning. Our start was in the afternoon, which meant sleeping in.

After late breakfast, we went to the expo to drop off our luggage and warmed up near the start. My plan was now to go early to my corral so I’d be at least near the front of the last wave. I wanted to break 4 min/km for the second time in a half marathon after Hallwilerseelauf in 2011, and where better to do that than here: being in the Netherlands, the course had about 20 metres of elevation overall. Maybe I could even sneak to corrals in front of the last one.

But: no. First of all, the corrals were separated by tall fences, and bibs were checked at the entrance. And secondly, there were almost 7000 half marathon runners, so I didnt even get close to the front of the last wave despite going to the start about 15 minutes early.

I wanted to stick to my plan, but if you lose more than a minute in the traffic jam of the very first kilometre, you know it will be hard. For the first ten kilometres, I was running slalom. Check out the race video to get an impression of how densely packed things were. Bonus task: find me! Except for a miraculously fast second kilometre, I was slower than my goal pace for the first ten kilometres.

Only then the field was spread apart enough to allow running without weaving through a lot of people. I was half angry at myself for not signing up earlier and half at the organisers for not letting me start closer to the front. At least I managed textbook-style negative splitting:

image

But despite a satisfactory second half, my 4 min/km goal was out of reach. In the end, it was my third fastest half marathon time to date, but it really doesn’t feel great when you know you could have been faster. Of the 98 seconds I was short of my goal, more than 70 were lost in the first kilometre alone.

Two cameras just before the finish provided for a study of my stride when tired:

image

So far, so good…

image

Okay…

image

Heel strike alarm!

image

And I don’t know what my foot is doing here. I swear I don’t usually run exclusively on the outside of my shoe.

I definitely wanted to come back and get revenge for missing out on a great time, but I haven’t managed so far. If anybody wants to run a fast half or full marathon, Eindhoven is the place! (Alternatively: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Enschede, Leiden…)

New “About” page

When I changed the name of my tumblr from something generic to “Lonely Swimmer”, I wrote a little post about it. As it is very unlikely for anybody to find that post by accident, I’ve finally created an “About" page with bits about myself and this website. (Hint: I’m not actually lonely, I just swim very slowly.)

Pfäffikerseelauf 2012 – 12.3 km

2012 marked my third time running around Lake Pfäffikon. 2010 was my debut in about 50 minutes; in 2011, I was in my NYC marathon preparations and ran about 47 minutes; in 2012, I just hoped to be not much slower than the year before. I was definitely in a worse shape than the year before and would not be able to get into the overall ranking of the regional cup race series, as this requires six results and Pfäffikon would only be my second after the 10k race in Dübendorf.

The weather was quite a bit cooler than the year before when it was blisteringly hot. I do well in hot weather so I wouldn’t have minded, but it just wasn’t that hot.

After watching the start of the first wave with the women and older men and warming up, it soon was our turn. This is us just after the start:

image

I’m pretty sure a few pixels of me are visible, but I don’t know where. The second guy from the right is ITU pro Maximilian Schwetz, a German who lives in Zurich; he’d place third in the end.

I don’t remember much about the race. This is just before the finish:

image

A few remarks: I’m wearing our running club shirt for the first time. I’m not a big fan of singlets and it was too cold for me anyway, hence the daring combination with an Odlo undershirt.

I didn’t catch the two guys in front of me; luckily, they were not in my age group.

Finally: see the guy behind me? Recognise him from the first picture? That’s right. If you finish 67th (or so) overall, the first row is probably the wrong place for you to start. Just saying.

My time was about 20 seconds slower than the year before, but my relative placing quite a bit worse – probably because people improve in average more than me when the conditions are cooler.

My racing season was about to come to an end, with just two events left: a half marathon in the Netherlands and my favourite local race, the Chlauslauf in Winterthur.

The Wayve 2012, leg 2 – 19 km

To kick off my 2012 end of year racing spree, I participated in “The Wayve”, taking place for the first time then. What started out as an ambitious ultramarathon race around Lake Zurich (including the bits after Rapperswil) seems to end up as a one hit “wonder”: in 2013, it was cancelled because there weren’t enough registrations, and in 2014 it won’t take place because the organisers set up the Swiss race of the “Wings for Life World Run" instead.

Anyway, there were options to run the whole thing on your own (111 km – good luck with that!), as a team of two (three legs each) or as a “Sixpack” with one leg each. That’s what I did.

This is what the full course looked like:

image

And it wasn’t flat at all:

image

My leg was the second one: almost all downhill! The course was in the region of my standard leg of the SOLA relay race and I like running downhill, so I was happy with that.

image

I met my teammates the evening before the race; I knew only one of them, the rest were friends of friends. We distributed the material (including the race shirt everybody had to wear), figured out who had to carry whose backpack where and left to rest for the night.

The next morning, I went to the starting area in Zurich to see the first start (Singles and “Twins”) to wave to a few friends, then I was off to my own start. It was a Sunday morning and public transportation not running at full capacity yet, but I thought I knew how to get to my start, having the race booklet with me and all.

I managed to catch the right bus after a short train ride, even though the booklet had different departure times for the busses. Being Swiss, this almost derailed me: a bus leaving a few minutes later than the one you wanted to take is most probably another bus! Not so in this case.

At what seemed to be the final stop, all the runners proceeded to get off the bus. Once we were out, the driver explained that he’d continue to where we actually have to be and I’m glad he did: we never would have found it (not to mention that it would have been very far). Thanks, organisers!

This will now turn into a little rant about the race organisation. It’s been more than a year and I’m still angry at the avoidable mistakes. Let’s start with the “timing” devices. Every runner had to carry a GPS device. This was great to check on your teammate to estimate when they would arrive, except that the website was close to unusable (no filtering, no favourites…), nobody thought of maybe putting up screens with the map at the transition zones and a lot of people had problems with the GPS trackers. We didn’t, but a lot of people had no idea where their teammates were (or were worried they had fallen off a cliff).

The worst part was that the trackers were supposed to double as timing devices. If your tracker updates only every few minutes and in many cases doesn’t even work properly, it’s probably not a good timing device, is it?

As I’ve mentioned, we were lucky and our tracker seemed to work so I could see how our starting runner was approaching much earlier than anticipated. I took the tracker and was off, starting with a nice killer downhill.

The course was marked “minimalistically” with little orange arrows, tried and tested in other ultra evens. Apparently. I have a hard time believing that those other events have runners take wrong turns by the dozen, as it happened in this race.

I did some preparations, had the GPS course on my watch to be beeped at when getting off course, had tried to memorise the twists and turns, yet still took a wrong turn twice. Like here:

image

or here:

image

Seriously, those tiny arrows were invisible. Extra infuriating was the car with race officials at the first wrong turn I took: the guys decided to stop just sitting and watching after about ten people ran past them the wrong way. Grrrr.

Did I mention it was rainy all the time?

image

Despite all the annoyances, the course was beautiful and I enjoyed running. Extra motivation was picking off the Singles and Twins who, of course, were running at a much easier pace, considering they had to go six times further.

I eventually reached Rapperswil, where I’d hand off to the next team mate. I was slower than what I’d hoped for, but there were much more little uphill sections than I’d anticipated, so that was fine.

After handing off, eating a ton of snacks and glancing angrily at the chief organiser who was checking on things, I showered and went to the finish area, where a few hours later the first people would arrive.

The overall Single champion arrived first, which means he lost less than one hour on the fastest Sixpack. Over 111 km! Then again, the guy is multiple Double and Triple Ironman World Champion, so he knows a thing or two about extreme endurance events.

The first Sixpacks arrived soon, and we hoped to maybe finish on the podium – but eventually just missed it by one place. Here is our last guy finishing his leg:

image

He was so focused that he blew right past us all and dropped us before we could finish together:

image

And here is the rest of the team (minus one guy who couldn’t make it):

image

Fourth overall – nice! Even nicer would have been to know the rankings of the individual legs, but there were either no results (tracker problems) or times in five minutes steps. Five minutes! I was in one of the first five minute packs, yay…

We spent the rest of the evening celebrating and listening to tales of getting lost underway (the last leg must have been the worst, people appearing from all directions), tracker troubles and organisational woes.

It should be mentioned that I’m certain a second edition would have improved on the main criticisms; the guys behind this race are the inventors of the Gigathlon after all, and that is one of the best run events I’ve ever been to.

Seelandtriathlon Murten 2012 – Olympic distance triathlon

To finish off my 2012 triathlon season, I participated in the Murten Triathlon, an Olympic distance race with a slightly longer bike leg of 45 km. In 2012, the race doubled as the age group Swiss Championships; this, together with the beautiful weather, contributed to a large and deep field.

After travelling across half of Switzerland, setting up transition and wandering around for a while, the start of my wave drew closer. Here we are on shore, a few minutes before being sent off:

image

The swim was a simple out and back where the main difficulty was to find the right buoy to turn around:

image

The waves doing the half iron distance were already gone and I’m pretty sure the turn buoy was then moved, so nobody accidentally swam too far.

This is the moment of the start, with the pros getting a little head start:

image

And upon very close inspection, I found myself in the picture:

image

Despite a hefty kick into my goggles after a few seconds, I didn’t drown. The swim split might suggest otherwise, but I think it was my fastest swim split in an Olympic distance ever. The official timing included the first transition, but my watch told me the good news.

image

As usual, the transition zone was quite calm when I entered it, making the task of finding my bike very easy. This is the transition zone even calmer than when I saw it:

image

The bike course was a single loop lollipop-style layout:

image

Mostly flat in the beginning (and end) with a hilly section in the middle.

image

As soon as I was in the saddle, I remembered what I had wanted to do before going to the swim start: one of the brake pads on the front wheel was rubbing the tyre when breaking and I should have adjusted it. Who wants an exploding front tyre, right? Unfortunately, the pad was still not adjusted and I had to remember not to use the front brake too often or too hard.

The course was beautiful with breathtaking views of the region. Also breathtaking were the hills, especially the downhills with curves in the end (remember my braking handicap).

Despite feeling okay on the bike and thinking my effort was alright, it was not a great time. I did catch up a few places, but that’s because I’m usually very far behind after the swim.

On to the run to save the day! The run portion was two laps of this:

image

Very flat along the lake. Just as I started, the first elite woman finished. The run went well, I passed a few people, and thanks to being a little short even the pace looked good.

The finishing area was a nice patch of lawn near the lake:

image

I am on the left. Don’t mind the girl. The photographer did a great job of catching me, i.e., my shoulders and back of the head:

image

After the good feeling of having finished had settled and chatting with friends was done, a slight frustration set in over a less than mediocre result. Was the field too strong? Was I ill-prepared? Should I learn to swim? Spend actual time in the saddle? So many questions.

For the rest of the year, though, the focus would be on running!